South Korea won its appeal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in a dispute over import bans imposed on seafood from Japan, keeping seafood caught from eight Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima from entering the country.
The Appellate Body of the WTO on Thursday (local time) dismissed Japan’s complaint that called South Korea’s import bans on Japanese seafood “arbitrary discrimination” and revealed its ruling report that said the import bans are in accordance with WTO rules. The Appellate body overturned an earlier ruling made in February that had sided with Japan. This is the first time that a first ruling on a Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement dispute was overturned in the Appellate Court at the WTO.
The Appellate Body agreed with South Korea’s argument that not only the radioactive levels of fishery products but the possibly contaminated surrounding environment should be considered in imposing a comprehensive ban on Japanese fishery products. In its earlier ruling, it said South Korea cannot impose a ban on Japanese seafood if it is not contaminated with radioactive materials.
According to the ruling, import regulations on seafood caught from prefectures near Fukushima, which have been imposed since 2013, will be kept in place. Seoul held a press conference in Sejong on Friday and said the import ban will be “permanent and will remain in place.”
The ruling shocked Tokyo and Japanese fishermen, who had been expecting to win the case. The Japanese government planned to negotiate with other countries as well after winning the suit against South Korea, which has the toughest ban on Japanese seafood imports.
Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono released a statement in less than an hour after the ruling was made, and said he found the ruling regrettable and would continue to demand that South Korea remove regulations. “We are taken aback by the unexpected ruling and collecting information in order to find out what had happened,” An official from the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.
Choong-Hyun Song firstname.lastname@example.org